Guest post: Five industries that will benefit from flexible fingerprint sensors
08 February 2017 10:37 GMT

By Dr Rouzet Agaiby, Senior Business Development Engineer at FlexEnable

With security becoming a key concern for individuals and companies alike, biometrics will be playing an ever increasing role for identity verification. Existing user authentication methods include fingerprint scanning, face recognition, iris scanning and voice recognition. The choice of the most appropriate modality depends on various criteria related to the specific application, but ease of use and performance in terms of security are key.

Fingerprint scanning is one of the most common and oldest identity verification methods. The technology’s perceived reliability and convenience to the end user has led to its widespread adoption across various industries. The fingerprint imaging industry is experiencing a continued growth as new products are being developed and new use cases explored. Flexible fingerprint sensors made of organic transistors on plastic substrates are an emerging technology that has the potential to further shape this industry. As they are free of glass, the sensors are thin, lightweight and can be conformed to surfaces over large and small areas.

This article looks at how flexible fingerprint sensors can bring value and boost the implementation of fingerprint imaging technology in five key industries.

Fintech industry

A new trend that appears to be shaping the fintech industry is the use of biometrics for the authentication of payment transactions. Users currently approve their transactions either via their pin code-enabled smartcards or their biometrics-enabled smartphones. As pin codes become impractical or insufficient in providing secure identity verification, banks are looking to improve security without compromising on the ease of use of smartcards. One way to do this is by using the cardholder’s fingerprint which requires the integration of fingerprint sensors. For easy integration in smartcards, the fingerprint sensors have to be flexible in order to cope with the daily wear and tear that smartcards are exposed to when used on a daily basis for three years.

Smartphones

Fingerprint sensors are currently integrated at the bottom front non-display area of the smartphone or on the back side of the phone. Such fingerprint sensors can capture a single fingerprint at a time. There is an argument in favour of user authentication through multi-finger rather than single finger recognition. With users increasingly using their phones to access e-mail and bank accounts, shop online and make in-store payments, more secure authentication is needed. A fingerprint sensor that is able to capture multiple fingers can provide more secure identity verification. At the same time, there is an increasing trend to minimise the non-display area of the phone by reducing the bezel as much as possible. In order to do that, smartphone makers have to place the fingerprint sensor on other areas of the phone where the user would naturally place their fingers to activate their phone. One such area is the edge of the phone. A flexible fingerprint sensor can be integrated on both edges of the phone authenticating the user as they hold their phone by the edge. Alternatively, a large area flexible fingerprint sensor can be integrated on the back side of the phone to enable multi-finger user authentication.

Wearables

Wearables are currently used for certain use cases, such as health and fitness tracking, phone alert monitoring, and sometimes payment transactions. As the Internet of Things megatrend continues to evolve, identity verification in wearables will become a key requirement to protect the user’s identity and data. Flexible fingerprint sensors create design freedom and allow for more integration options in a wearable; for example, they can be embedded in the strap of the wearable without making it too bulky or at the edge of a wearable display. This means that wearable devices will be able to instantly recognise their users and provide personalised content, or allow secure access to buildings or services specific to the user, while ensuring the device cannot be used for these purposes by others if it’s lost or stolen.

Automotive applications

Frost and Sullivan forecast that one in three cars will be using biometrics by 2025[1]. At CES earlier this month, Bosch and Continental demonstrated how biometrics can be used to recognise the driver and optimise the car seat and mirrors to the user’s preference. Flexible fingerprint sensors can enable keyless cars when curved around the door handle or the steering wheel in order to instantly recognise the user. Imagine the payment of toll or congestion charges being approved when the user authenticates the payment with their fingerprint from the steering wheel.

Healthcare

Identity verification in a healthcare setting is vital because of the obvious risk to the patient if the wrong treatment is carried out, along with serious implications for the healthcare provider. Currently the patient’s identity is verified before a procedure by asking the patient to confirm their name and address and this process is executed several times by more than one person. In an emergency situation this procedure is harder to follow. Implementing biometrics into healthcare cards can be a more secure means of verifying the patient’s identity as well as helping reduce administrative costs for the hospitals. Such biometric healthcare cards can also be used to ensure that the correct drugs are administered to the right patient. Fingerprint sensors can be easily integrated into healthcare cards making the identification of the patient through fingerprint scanning quick and easy.

Supply chain collaboration

With the fingerprint sensor market set to grow over the next few years, companies looking to tap into new markets or become leaders in their own market should consider this innovative technology to strengthen their position. Bringing a new technology to the market is never easy, but a lot of the pieces are now in place to enable the mass production of flexible fingerprint sensors. With the necessary investment in product development and field tests, we will soon see new products benefiting from this ground-breaking technology.

About the Author

Dr Rouzet Agaiby is Senior Business Development Engineer at FlexEnable. She has nine years’ experience in a variety of technologies including semiconductor manufacturing, solar cells and flexible electronics with special focus on sensors. Rouzet is responsible for growing the implementation of FlexEnable’s flexible electronics technology in X-ray detectors and fingerprint sensors. She also sets up and manages key strategic developments in sensors applications with major market players to bring products to market that have added value both for OEMs and for the end user. Rouzet has a PhD in semiconductor technology from University of Newcastle and an MBA from Manchester Alliance Business School.

 

[1] http://www.planetbiometrics.com/article-details/i/5261/